Almost 10 years ago, Elaine Ellis, a northwest resident in the District had an idea to develop and implement community-driven solutions to reduce inequities in healthcare.

Ellis and like-minded people formed the Community Health Partnership (CHP), a nonprofit coalition of grassroots community stakeholders working in Ward 4. Its mission was to build healthy neighborhoods through education and community outreach activities that aim to improve individual health literacy, link people to care and treatment, and enhance quality of life for all members of the community.

“My personal motivation to work on this project came from the pre-mature loss of several family members from cancer and diabetes,” said Ellis. “The goal of CHP programs is to help educate people about their own health, risks and care options so they become better advocates for themselves.”

Rather than waiting for individuals to seek out health information in unfamiliar environments, CHP sought ways to bring that information into neighborhoods of the people at risk. That search led CHP to explore touch screen kiosks like ATM machines.

The group shared its vision for a health disparities information system using public kiosks with Dr. Graham Colditz, formerly with Harvard University’s Center for Cancer Prevention. In 2006, CHP received licensing rights to Your Disease Risk (YDR) for use as first module on our public kiosk program.

YDR is an evidence-based interactive risk assessment and prevention tool for twelve cancers, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and stroke. CHP developed its kiosk program through generous support from the Harvard School of Public Health and Siteman Cancer Center. YDR usability testing was conducted with assistance from Dr. Diana Owen at Georgetown University.

The organization worked tirelessly to raise the necessary funding to build a touch screen interface to operate the program on free public kiosks. Development of new touch screen kiosk application, ‘HEALTHY? FIND OUT!’ was accomplished with support from James Kruper, Analytical Design Solutions (ADSI).

CHP was awarded a $50 thousand community grant from the Community Health Administration, DC Cancer Consortium, and the DC Department of Health to implement the pilot kiosk program in Ward 4 neighborhoods.

Currently, there are three public kiosk locations:
Fourth District Police Headquarters, 6001 Georgia Avenue NW
Fort Stevens Recreation Center, 1327 Van Buren Street NW
Riggs LaSalle Recreation Center, 501 Riggs Road NE

D. Musinah Berry-Dawan, a part time District employee for the DC Department of Parks and Recreation since 2005 has no health insurance. Still waiting for her new status as a permanent employee since she began working full time in April, she finds the kiosk helps to keep track of her health concerns without a physician. She works at one of the kiosk sites.

“The kiosk is especially good for those who don’t have health care. It provides good access for a variety of people in the community from all walks of life. You can’t tell from looking at someone if they have health insurance or not. The kiosk doesn’t discriminate. It just provides information.”

Mara Cherkasky used the kiosk while her child practiced soccer on the grounds of the recreational center. She was amazed at the directory of physicians that was available. “I find the kiosk beneficial because people like to play with screen applications. You won’t get embarrassed by giving very personal data about your health to a machine and getting reliable results.”

Berry-Dawan hopes more people realize the importance of the machine. “Dozens of residents come through the center but many pass by the machine. Our goal is to make the kiosk a focal point of the center for all age groups.”

The kiosk telephone will direct dial to a partnering organization to provide assistance with scheduling appointments.

The program is seeking partnerships with high schools, colleges and universities that offer students credit for community service hours. Program managers will teach the students to 1) help people with kiosk survey 2) instruct participants how to utilize the healthcare provider directory; and 3) show users how to operate kiosk telephone.

“There were 768 users from April 1 to June 30. The number of kiosk users across three locations is an indicator that people are receptive to the program,” said Ellis.

Other partners include the DC Bar Pro Bono Program and Steptoe & Johnson, PLLC, Nativity Catholic Church, DC Metropolitan Police Department and Department of Parks and Recreation, Howard University Cancer Center, Georgetown Lombardi Cancer and Capital Breast Care Center.

Valencia Mohammed

Special to the AFRO